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Cloudy with a Chance of Synergy

In 2010, I wrote in one of my blogs of "cloud's illusions." That year's Gartner Hype Cycle report said that cloud computing had passed the "Peak of inflated expectations," and was headed for the "Trough of Disillusionment." Four and a half years later, the forecast seems clearer.

Many cloud services set stratospheric expectations. Some have delivered., for example, precipitated a revolution in Customer Relationship Management. Other cloud benefits have been less exposed to the elements. Let's discuss some ways the cloud has produced synergies.

Synergy is a word that has experienced a hype cycle of its own. At times you can hardly escape a business conversation without the word being uttered.


Figure 1 Instances of the word Synergy in word literature since 1950

According to the word synergy means, "Interaction of two or more agents or forces so that their combined effect is greater than the sum of their individual effects." Doing my best impersonation of an analyst, I'll say that I am becoming convinced that the cloud offers great opportunities for synergies.

In fact I'll stretch my weather analogy further to say that today the potential for synergies resulting from the cloud saturate the business atmosphere like midsummer humidity in Boston. The air practically drips with opportunities.

These opportunities scale from benefits to the individual to greater altitudes. An example of how an individual may benefit is how I have used a cloud solution to compose this blog post. At times I typed at my desk, at times I dictated on my Android device. Regardless, there remained one synchronized copy which I accessed from wherever I happened to be.

Another type of synergy related to this concept that would fit a definition would be when I wish to work with other members of my team. I can share any document using the cloud and multiple parties can collaborate on the one synchronized copy. It matters little where they are or which device they may be using.

There are synergies that fall into a different category. These are more along the lines of Merriam-Webster's definition which includes, "Mutually advantageous conjunction or compatibility of distinct business participants."

As water vapor rising to form clouds, we see more of these types of synergies arise as diverse companies' business interests converge. Here, one company's value to their customers can be supplemented and enhanced by another company's contribution of capabilities via the cloud.

An example of this type of synergy is a company who provides cloud-based SMS text messaging services. Because this service is integrated with most of the major contact center and Web chat platforms available on the market today, all involved parties accumulate benefit.

Offering SMS, this Software as a Service (SaaS) company wins new business. The manufacturers of the contact center software benefit by extending the value of their offer. The customers of these companies gain benefits through a more contemporary way to communicate with their customers. The end-user customer gets what they need in a more convenient and almost universally available way of communicating. There are also other strata to these benefits.

When trying to use SMS as a tool in customer service, it used to be that there were a lot of hassles. The owner of the contact center needed to go out and acquire hardware and software, and they needed to install and configure everything. There were arcane negotiations with text messaging carriers required. Once this was all done, the contact center software or Web chat vendor needed to perform professional services to integrate the capabilities. On top of all this, there were long-term costs, including required support and maintenance for the customer.

These hassles are probably the major reason why, until recently, SMS text messaging as a support tool was a rare option. In the past, those who wished to obtain customer support from a human being found it difficult to avoid long queues. Especially when using a mobile device, the best option for an interactive session was all too often sitting on hold, burning minutes, listening to inane music or commercials, and awaiting our opportunity to speak.

SaaS over the cloud, in this case, takes away most of those headaches. Now using standards-based Web technologies, messages are simply passed through the SMS provider's gateway. The SMS company handles the necessary infrastructure, network mediation, and other logistics and services.

The contact center customer is better able to align expenses with the business activities that incur the costs. SMS as a service becomes an operational expenditure - no longer a largely capitalized expense. The contact center agent uses familiar tools. The business manages and reports on text messages in the same ways as other customer contacts. End user customers get faster service through an increasingly popular medium that doesn't consume their undivided attention in the way a voice conversation demands.

My skepticism of past years about the cloud decreases as more evidence condensates. At the end of the rainbow after a summer shower there just may be a pot of gold.